With the Promenade quickly filling to capacity, some have started to consider the future of development in Old Town Bluffton.
"As we reflect on the emergence of Old Town Bluffton, what's next?" asked Eugene Marks, a real estate investor and Bluffton resident.
Marks is proposing to develop six residential cottages and six mixed-use buildings on a three-acre lot he owns in the Stock Farm development off May River Road.
Marks, who also has projects in Palmetto Bluff and the Promenade, believes the location of Stock Farm, in conjunction with the May River Road streetscape project, makes it a viable hub for homes, offices and retailers. He calls it potentially the "next phase" of mixed-use development in the Old Town area.
In his plans, Marks' project is divided into two phases: the first would involve constructing two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottages, which Marks anticipates to be short-term rentals. The second would consist of building two-story, mixed-use buildings that face May River Road.
"If (the cottages) are high-demand and the streetscape is great, I think the market will determine what the (mixed-use) development will be," Marks said. In that development, he envisions a "live-work situation," with small businesses such as offices, cafes and retailers on the first floor and apartments on the second floor.
Marks hopes to break ground in January, right before the final phase of the May River Road streetscape project is expected to begin in March. The last phase of construction, which is projected to cost $2 million, calls for new lights, landscaping, pedestrian street crossings, sidewalks, on-street parking and buffers from Pin Oak to Whispering Pine streets.
Above: This site plan prepared by Pearce Scott Architects shows the mixed-use lots, in green, and the residential lots, in purple, proposed by Eugene Marks in the Stock Farm development in Bluffton.
Marks believes the streetscape project will not only make the area along May River Road aesthetically appealing but will also make the Stock Farm neighborhood more accessible to the rest of Old Town. With the cottages, which architect Pearce Scott says will be between 900 and 2,800 square feet, Marks hopes to provide a downtown lodging option.
"There are no hotels in (Old Town)," he said. He predicted an inn would not be economically feasible and said that cottages provided more flexibility for renters. "My intent is for short-term rentals with the provision that if someone really wanted to buy, I'd probably sell it."
The cottages will be designed in a similar style as the buildings seen in the Promenade and throughout Old Town.
"This is in the historic district so there are strong covenants," Marks said. "You can't put up McMansions."
Current renderings depict the cottages with traditional Lowcountry-style features such as porches and metal roofs.
The idea behind Scott's design is to make the Marks development feel like its own segment within Stock Farm.
"We're striving for a pocket neighborhood feel," he said. "It's contained, but part of a larger neighborhood."
Scott added the next step is to meet with the town's Historic Preservation Commission in the coming weeks.
Follow reporter Ashley Fahey at twitter.com/IPBG_Ashley.
- Final sprucing up of May River Road planned for 2016, April 26, 2015